Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Historical Spotlight: The Pentax LX

"Let us roll all our strength and all / Our sweetness up into one ball"
- Andrew Marvell

This last February, for just a moment, I was handed a friend's Pentax LX. It was in almost mint condition, clean, and ebony glossy. But the next second my heart started twirling around inside my ribs with a small panic attack. I better not drop it, I thought, then worse; I have to hand it back in the next minute or two. Even though this was a few months ago, I can remember that camera's physical heft and something of its emotional weight in my mind. To me, the LX is the kind of camera I wanted as kid when I went camping in Canada's national parks. An all business, black, and no nonsense art tool that could fend off a wolf or maybe a charging moose if you swung it from the strap hard enough. What is it about this particular camera that inspires me to think like that? Uhm... because it's awesome? If you guessed no, then you're wrong, because the right answer is yes.

Photo copyright 1998, Leofoo.

The Pentax LX was Pentax's most fully realized non-AF camera, wrought with every insight its engineers could bring to the table for professional photographers. It was built for rugged handling, with a weather-proofed body over an aluminum alloy chassis, which was one of the most durable combinations of its kind. Yet it was very easy to handle, with every button and dial comfortable in your hands. It had an incredible -6.5 to +20 EV exposure meter aimed preceisley at the film plane (mind you, only center weighted), that improved upon Olympus's OTF metering advances. There were plenty of interchangeable viewfinders (at least 9), focusing screens (at least 14), and various diopters, with 98% of the film frame viewable on the standard viewfinder. Need mirror lock-up, DOF preivew, exposure compensation, multiple exposure control, or a timer? They're there. There were battery packs, data backs, remotes, flashes, motor winders, and wooden grips. And even though the LX was lean on modes--manual, aperture priority, and Auto Exposure with TTL Flash (TTL flash with the hot shoe, X-Sync terminal at 1/75)--it was considered a very intelligent camera. And it was still lighter and smaller than an equivalent Nikon or Canon.

It came out on Pentax's 60th Anniversary, and 25 years later it was released in a special Titanium edition, then a Millennium edition. At one point, there was even a gold plated edition, commemorating the 10 millionth Pentax SLR sold in 1983. (This gold plated LX deserves its own post later on, because it's sort of, well, shocking now, when we're all not watching Dallas anymore.)

Others can do better than me at fitting the LX into an historical context against its competitors, but I will say its popularity was one of the milestones in the transition from an era of manual control to AE programming for every major camera manufacturer, before AF threw everything back up in the air. The MIR website has one of the most intriguing dissections of the camera and its accessories. Below is a short list of some of the sites that talk about the LX in detail, including pictures. Enjoy.

Important Links for the Pentax LX: MIR's Modern Classic SLR Series: Pentax LX, William Robb's Pentax LX Gallery, Digital Image Studio's LX Page, Boris's LX page, LX Metering, LX variations (missing pictures!), LX focusing screens guide page, a French LX page, and the Pentax LX manual

No comments:

All Labels For This Site (Alphabetical)

© 2006-2011 by OK1000 Pentax Blog. All rights reserved. OK1000 Pentax Blog is not affiliated with Pentax.